overthinking

by lauren atkinson


All things come to this:
Over thinking.

I try to imagine the simple things that you do

but without me watching.


The grazing of the towel against your wet skin,

that swish as it dusts off the dew of the shower—

Did you remember to wash the bath sheets on

delicate?

And the clickclickclick of the coffee maker,

and the flashing light of its display as it turns on—

did you descale it yesterday?

I know you’d carry on

if I was gone,

but I’d like to think you’d do the small things

out of habit as if I was there.

 

I could watch you do anything and

the hair on the back of my neck would stand

then the chills shake through my spine

and time often stops as I simply watch you go about life.

 

I never thought life could be a primetime sitcom,

but I am now almost there. 

 

 


by lauren atkinson


The way that you stop the all of the cool air and chill of winter by grasping the tip of my ear between your thumb and forefinger making just that area so warm: sending that warmth through the nape of my neck then down my spine. your heartbeat makes me both anxious and calm with my other ear rested on your chest. But the rise and fall of your breathing keeps me present.


I get wrapped up in everything but us when really all I want is this


Cut the Cord

by lauren atkinson


When the sheets are cold and

Crisp

And
Clean
The whiskey extra sweet
Your hand between my knees
As well as
This summer’s memories?
Bittersweet:
Rough and long
Yet
Everlasting, Binding,
Neat
And
Clean.


ritual phantoms

by lauren atkinson


when my grandmother passed, i stayed in her house the week after. I slept in my mother’s old room on a dingy futon. in the middle of the night i heard my grandmother's tv click on in the basement. I covered my head with the blanket trying to sleep and not imagine ghosts mulling about. i heard footsteps somewhere, even though i was alone.

in the morning, sitting on the sofa, still ripe with cigarette smoke lingering in the air as if she was sitting next to me, i watched the static on the television as i flipped through the menus on the remote control. 

an auto-on function.

my grandpa later told me that my grandma had a terrible time sleeping without sound. even though their bedroom was on the floor above, the distant hum of the television would lull her to sleep.

later in the day, my grandpa slipped out for a coffee. it was his ritual. sitting in the kitchen, i heard the footsteps again, and they were coming from the attic room. they were quiet, like a child’s and almost barely there. Going up the stairs, I stopped, and watched as two mice scurried under the old turntable stand. the one, sticking out his nose and sniffing the air while his chest rose and fell, silently.

i heard a crash in the other room, and the mice darted into a crack in the floor. slowly i crept into my grandmother’s sewing room. pins and needles scattered about, bobbins rolling about on the woodfloor. and then i saw a cat perched in the open attic window. i didn’t know my grandma owned a cat. and just as i began to think about it, he slunk out the window and across the roof of the second story, leaping onto the carport of the neighbor’s house. sitting atop the carport, his tail flicked the air and his eyes followed a robin that bounced through the lawn looking for worms. 

later in the day, i watched my grandpa stand at the fridge with the door open, hunched and looking confused. i didn’t ask him if anything was wrong, but he told me anyway with his mumbled german accent and the asthma wheezing in his chest.

"I never cooked a thing in my life. i was in the war, and there was food prepared for me. i came home and mother cooked every meal. I got married and Barb took care of me. i don’t even know what she put on my sandwiches."

giving up, he sat down with a non-alcoholic beer, stale smelling and sweaty with the late summer air. he stared out the window for an hour, not saying a word. somewhere in that hour, i got up from the table and stared into the fridge myself— stale bread, moldy cheese, curdled milk. i stood there longer than i should have, frost pouring out into the heat of the room, hoping a bit that something decent would materialize. i ordered takeout instead. 

sometimes our habits are there to keep us safe. other times to help us grieve.


by lauren atkinson


when you’re young, you break hearts on purpose. 

then you learn to break a couple in order not to break your own.

I dont feel sorry for any broken hearts,

i know i caused a few

but in the end it was needed

to end up with you

No regrets.

and really, im glad. we are all better off anyway


by lauren atkinson


When she called me and told me to meet her there, I didn’t know the place was a bar. we had been talking about meeting up for weeks now. It was originally my suggestion, but I only wanted to see if she’d carry it through.

I got there a little earlier than expected and the place was packed. College freshman filled the place after the game, rowdy and inconsiderate of their surroundings. I tried to act smug about the fact that the way they bustled about was only a few short years ago for me but instead I laughed aloud, to myself.

The bartender looked at me, “saving that seat for someone special?”

No, just an old friend.

I ordered a bourbon and continued to crouch over the bar, as frat boys shoved past on their way to the restroom or on their way to get a number.

When she came in, I stood. It was automatic. Her hair sat right at the nape of her neck—she looked older. Her winter coat was cinched up perfect around her waist, flattering her tiny frame. She approached me, not saying anything, smiling and immediately embracing me. It had been too long, or maybe just long enough. 
In the moment, I started to think back on all that had passed between us. Before that night, I thought that when all those memories came back, I’d immediately be remorseful of what never happened.

It wasn’t so. Instead, I was overwhelmed with the feeling of relief. 

She didn’t say much in the hours that passed; At least, nothing of importance that I care to share. The only remarkable piece of evidence that I am officially moved on: when she sat there twirling her right pointer finger through her hair like she always had, I didn’t want to be that finger. The big rock on her left hand, it made me somewhat guilty for bringing her out, but as I watched her slide it up her finger with the thumb of her left hand, and then glide it back down with a pinch of her right hand’s fingers—I felt sorry for her.
All she is now is someone’s trophy wife. The things she does in my presence make me uncomfortable. Her body screams for all to watch it and say something about it, instead I just pretend she’s anyone else. Just one tiny grain of sand in a beach of other tiny grains of sand.

She was probably about three glasses of wine in at this point. She started telling some story about a tragic breakup she was hearing through the wall of her apartment building. How she was thinking of convincing Brian to buy a house this summer. 

She always had these ideas in her head of places that she would go. She didn’t see any of them. 
She had dreams of making it on television. She barely left the view of the one in her living room.

I let her talk over me like she did when we were together. But now I wasn’t listening. Now is the point where I look at her, while she’s mid-sentence. I interrupt.

I’m going home. It was nice seeing you. Tell Brian I said hi.

“That’s it? What did you call me out here for? I thought you wanted me.”

I never responded. She knew. 

I wasn’t being vindictive, intentionally.


space.

by lauren atkinson


i thought of you while i was cooking dinner the other night. something reminded me of you while i was chopping garlic cloves. my eyes were watering, and the back of my tongue burning.


and i saw you like you were standing there in front of me,

strung out, high; red, wet eyes and raspy throat.

your eyes always got red when you smoked and your hair was never kept in place no matter how hard you tried. You had a cowlick in the back of your head that I’m certain you had no idea was there: it looked like you were permanently five years old and just waking up from a nap, skin dewy with sleep and eyes always half closed but still full of wonder in the world. 

no matter the shoe, you always wore a hole or rubbed the suede free on the outer sole near your pinky toe. you had a knack for waiting to get something tailored until it was already worn too many times that it’d be recognized by anyone that saw you. every shirt was one size too big and hung too wide in your shoulders.

you always rub your pointer finger on your right hand with your thumb when you’re nervous. and bite the inside of your lip when you’re impatient. the skin inside your bottom lip is raw and red, and i always yelled at you to stop because you’d do it until you bled. 

you were always impatient. with me, the world. something. someone. everyone. everything.



as i chopped the garlic, my hand moved faster and faster until there were too many cloves chopped for the meal.

when i think of you, i run out of space. 


Vacation

by lauren atkinson


empty bed—

reconstruct you from pillows and

sheets;

at the very least,

recreate your heat.

dreaming,

i feel you

but youre not there

phantom limbs.

part of me gone,

but i swear it still exists.

we don’t define ourselves by our numberous bones, muscles and fibers. our limbs. they are but parts, and not incomplete without them—yet still not whole.


her

by lauren atkinson


There’s a carelessness about her. in everything she does. 

every motive just seems reckless.

but then there’s the way the whole world composes around her,

everything else a dance in the midst of her.

a step off the sidewalk into busy traffic, 

every car at attention to the movements of a pedestrian.

all reactions due her,

but all eyes on her.


What Infinity Was

by lauren atkinson


I was a fool to ever think the way to infinity was believing in things that had no care or concern of me. If there was concern for my being, 

prove me wrong.

instead we’ve been cut out. chewed upon, 

and instead of spitting out the gristle or whatever

tries to remain, 

we’re mashed upon.

grit mixing with saliva,

stirred but not completely broken.

sore.

no, infinity comes not this way.

(and had it, I would want none of it,

to be torn apart and stuck,

rotting in the crevices between 

the teeth of all father.

cavities- rotting. 


November

by lauren atkinson


Maybe we should go away a while
Off to sea in
Flannel sheets,
The warm breeze of
Radiator heat

Punch my ticket,
Please.


If I wrote a song.

by lauren atkinson


all I wanted was a quarter

to play my song once more

and a quarter after that to play

it one more time

who knew it'd be so hard to

ever scrape a dime

 

see, i've got the motive

and miles of shakes in my shoes

as well

but all they seem to give me

is the ghetto jobless blues.


The Only Bitterness I hold is towards myself

by lauren atkinson


I was a fool to ever think the way to infinity was believing in things that had no care or concern of me. If there was concern for my being, 

prove me wrong.

instead we’ve been cut out. chewed upon, 
 and instead of spitting out the gristle or whatever
 
tries to remain, 
 
we’re mashed upon.

grit mixing with saliva,
 stirred but not completely broken.
 
sore.

no, infinity comes not this way.
 (and had it, I would want none of it,
 
to be torn apart and stuck,
 
rotting in the crevices between 
 
the teeth of all father.

cavities- rotting. 

 


august

by lauren atkinson


 

im jealous of everyone and every thing that has your attention or is in your presence,

that’s not me

at any time

or any place.

I’ve resigned myself to knowing that at least a hair on your head has to have the space to move. And yet i’d be jealous of the wind that carries it, 

the eye that sees it out of place,

and your fingers, brushing that strand back into place.

If I could, i’d be all people,

everything you touch

I’d be all moments 

of every day to you.

But that’s a selfish thing of me to do,

and I’d never wish such things because of it.


mourning

by lauren atkinson


 if i thought the words would bring you back

id only have 

muttered them under my breath

because it’s no use sleeping with the 

ghost

of someone else’s past.

and if drinking sips from out a holy cup

will keep us

all from shriveling up then

maybe we are better off buried

down

below the darkened ground.

we’re all martyrs

sheepherders

and bags of bones


She

by lauren atkinson


 She told me not to wait up for her. unfortunately, i am a child: touching flames the parents asked me not to, pulling my sibling’s hair when no

one’s looking, and picking at the skin around my nails despite knowing it drives you mad.

and as i lay awake thinking of where she is i know without a doubt not a soul can touch her and she, of course, is the most enchanting in the room. 

it’s not jealousy that keeps me waiting. it is the prospect that someone, somewhere, thinks the same about me and I had always wished it would be her.


July

by lauren atkinson


 the simple needs

of ever bare feet
dry wines
mild summertime
and the concern
in your eyes

when you wake to see me not asleep.